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Apr 27, 2007 04:47 PM

Basque Cultural Center - big meal heaven

One recent Sunday evening, needing some serious meat and potatoes, we had dinner at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco.

Michael ordered the Magré de Canard au Poivre Vert (Duck breast) $20.95 and I ordered the Sunday Dinner special which is Lamb Stew & Prime Rib $18.95

It’s a lot of food and very filling. Entrées come with potatoes & veggies as well as soup AND salad. My dinner came with ice cream for dessert. The soup is served family style, it was a quite good vegetable minestrone. They sell their soup of the day to go by the quart for $5 which seemed like a bargain.

The salad is your basic green but it was fresh, crisp and not overdressed. In case you didn’t notice, the nightly dinner special comes with TWO entrées so they serve one of the entrées by itself between the salad and the main plate. We ended up sharing the lamb stew between us and using bread to sop up every last bit.

By the time our main plates arrived, I was full so I pretty much only had a taste of each thing and took the rest to go. The potatoes were cubed and fried and quite nice. The mixed vegetables were not the dreaded Birds Eye but fresh, seasonal, sautéed but still with some snap to them, also quite nice. The prime rib came rare as requested and was good without being outstanding (House of Prime Rib tableside carving). I thought Michael’s duck breast was fantastic, but maybe that’s cause I don’t see it on menus much and its often overcooked, tough or overly fatty – this was not, it was just right.

For dessert I had my ice cream and Michael had strawberry shortcake. Both were good enough but I was full and not particularly interested.

The bill with 4 beers without tip came to $65.

FYI – The wine list didn’t look that interesting but apparently their corkage is only $7 and I noticed several tables with a carafe of wine and a bottle so I’m guessing that they waive corkage when you buy a bottle.

We'll definitely go back, we just can't agree on which day - I want to go on Saturday for the Seafood Crepe & Roast, Michael wants to back on Sunday so he can have a whole Lamb Stew of his own.

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  1. Lamb Stew *AND* Prime Rib? I just added it to my list. Thanks for the report.

    1. I've had some very good, interesting, and inexpensive Basque wines from the list on past visits.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Thanks for the tip. I'll have be more adventureous next time.

        1. re: larochelle

          Safe bets are Txakolina for white and Irouleguy for red.

      2. Oh... tonight's family style dinner is salmon and leg of lamb as the combined entree. I just made reservations... hoping that my DH will go for it. Aha, menu said $10 minimum per person, but the person who answered the phone said that there's a kids menu :-)

        1. Haven't been here in years, but always had great hearty family style meals. Also a hit with the eldery locals as well as past visiting family members.

          Lamb and prime rib, can't beat that. At times the food seemed a tad bit saltier tha I would have liked. Sadly they have not managed to reproduce that same flavor of home style Basque as the defunct Des Alpes restaurant near the edge of Chinatown in the early 90s (who had a splendid string bean salad and the perfect fries), anyone else remember that place? Does the reincarnation known as Piperade do those two same dishes??

          22 Replies
          1. re: K K

            I've never seen that green bean salad anywhere else. I came up with a recipe, I'll write it up and post it.

            I wouldn't call Piperade a reincarnation of Des Alpes. It's about as different as a Basque restaurant could be.

            1. re: K K

              If I recall, Des Alps had really odd hours and only one seating, no reservations or something like that. It was sort of hard to coordinate a meal if I remember.

              I really liked the Basque Hotel (off Broadway in North Beach) but it closed a long, long time ago. The food was good to very good with great value. The communal dining and lack of pretense also had its charm.

              1. re: ML8000

                I well remember many good times at the Basque Hotel. Too bad it's gone. I don't know of any place like it. Does anyone?

                1. re: ML8000

                  Des Alpes was the last of the old family-style Basque places to close. It had normal dinner hours, 5:30 to 10pm, and took reservations. I think BCC is the closest thing around here now--it has both family-style daily specials and a la carte.

                  There are still some Basque family-style places in the Central Valley and Nevada. There are some reports on the California and Southwest boards. Here's a national list:


                  The Basque Hotel's still there on Romolo Alley, but it's just a bar now.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Was there also a basque hotel that serves food on Stockton below Broadway -- or is it all a dream? I think you walked up to the 2nd floor to the dining room, not nearly as big as the "famous" one...

                    1. re: Sarah

                      That's the Obrero, which may still exist as a B&B.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        There's a basque place in Marin. STILL haven' been though.

                        1. re: rworange

                          According to that list, there's a Basque restaurant in Sausalito and two in San Rafael

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            The one in Sausalito (Guernica?) is no longer. It's now Saylor's South, same owner as Saylor's Landing.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              There was a Basque restaurant in the Villa Motel on upper Lincoln in SR, but it appears to have been defunct for a couple of years or more. The other place would be the Chalet Basque (see below) a French restaurant of dubious Basque-ness.

                            2. re: rworange

                              You may be thinking of Le Chalet Basque at 405 N San Pedro Rd in San Rafael. It's been there a long time and has always been a place where many San Rafael business people go for lunch. I hadn't been there in many years when I went for lunch almost two years ago. All I remember about the food was that it was very forgettable and the house red wine had "turned". I would like to like the place, so please someone else try it and report back. It's a "regular restaurant" and not a family-style Basque place like many here are talking about.

                              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                That's it, Mick. I belive dinner service is different than lunch.

                                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                  You're right - there's nothing particlarly Basque about it. It's always been a rather modest family-run French restaurant, and much beloved by people in the neighborhood.

                                  I used to go there for lunch with folks from the workplace for semi-events. We would eat outside and my usual order was pate from the appetizer list and a bowl of soup. With the salady-garnishes and the French bread that came with the lunch, it made a nice meal.

                                1. re: Sarah

                                  I had something at the Obrero that I have been trying to find a recipe for ever since. It was one of the starter dishes, and consisted of steamed clams in their shells with green rice mixed in. There must have been lots of parsley involved, and I don't know what else. Can anyone help me on this?

                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                    I have a recipe for a Basque dish called Arroz con Chirlas. I'll post it on Home Cooking.

                                    --Nancy Berry

                            3. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Do you remember those insanely delicious fries at Des Alps? OMG. Served in a big ole stainless spun bowl! Oh jeeze and the sweetbreads. I was probaby 18 and those were my first :) I dated someone from Bakersfield and she insisted on Noriega Hotel over Woolgrowers in the central valley. I ate 2x at Noriega(gotta love the drinks and cattle line in) and 1x at Woolgrowers and have to agree. It reminds me of both Des Alps and the Basque hotel which have left an empty place in my heart since closing. After having traveled to both Bilbao and SanSebastian I still haven't recaptured those meals...must be a totally Americanized 1970-1995 Basque era in california. Closest is Noriega in Bakersfield. Maybe Pyrennese in Chino...

                          2. re: K K

                            I loved Des Alpes. I posted my personal recreation of the string bean salad in the thread that Robert Lauriston links above. I shall never make a fry as good as theirs, and on that note, other dishes not to be forgotten: roast beef in a thickened jus, and oxtail stew. I think I only ever ordered those two things, because I was under 18 and unadventurous.

                            1. re: orezscu

                              The only way to "order" at Des Alpes was to choose which day to go there!

                              As noted above, BCC has both family-style daily specials and an a la carte menu.

                              1. re: orezscu

                                Their oxtail stew was my first experience with that dish, and a real revelation. From time to time I try to recreate it.

                                1. re: Sharuf

                                  LOVE all things oxtail. Will you please share your recipe(s)?

                            2. Adding the place link so this review shows up on the place summary.

                              Basque Cultural Center
                              599 Railroad Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080